Surviving Lymphoma and Life's Challenges: Leslie's Story

This two-part article was written exclusively for LymphomaInfo.net by Leslie Smith Doan, a blogger and lymphoma survivor. In the first part, Leslie shares the story of her diagnosis and how she got through treatment.

In January of 2000 I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well. My symptoms started with extreme itching. In March I experienced chest pains and was told that it was a bruised rib cage.

During the spring and summer it just got worse – fatigue, night sweats and weight loss. I was 38 years old at the time, married, the mother to two young daughters (then ages 3 and 7) and working full time as a technical writer.

I kept going back to several different doctors and once was told I was a "stressed out working mom" and placed on an antidepressant. I finally took an emergency leave of absence from my job in October when I dropped down to 107 pounds and developed a serious cough.

Identifying the Problem

On Nov. 6, I went back to my doctor's office where I was examined by a new physician, Dr. Kathryn Mitchell. She immediately ordered a chest x-ray and upon viewing the results sent me directly to the hospital because I had an eight-inch tumor in my sternum. All I can remember is calling my husband at work to tell him I needed to go to the hospital and then calling my mother and asking her to buy me some new pajamas and underwear at Walmart because I had been too tired to do laundry.

I spent three days in the hospital and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (large B cell) Stage 1 (lumpy) by Dr. Lawrence Mendelsohn. He said it was Stage 1 because it had not spread but lumpy because it was so large. The day after I was released from the hospital my sister, Lori Canon, drove me to my first chemotherapy session.

I had short-term disability insurance through my employer, so I was able take a medical leave of absence and my medical care was covered by my husband’s health insurance. I felt lucky because I met many other cancer patients who did not have insurance or any family support.

Surviving Treatment

These are important things to remember while going through treatment:

  • Focus on the positive. Several times my parents brought me a California club sandwich and broccoli cheese soup while I was receiving chemotherapy. Every time I completed another treatment, I rewarded myself by either buying a new magazine to read or just renting a movie to watch with my family.
  • Utilize your time. I went through cancer treatment during the holidays, so I can remember working on my Christmas card list while hooked up to an IV!
  • If someone asks, "What can I do to help?" tell them. And don’t be surprised by the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members and sometimes even strangers. My co-workers brought meals to our home three or four times a week for several months. My family picked up our daughters from school on days when my husband had to work late and on several occasions would take the girls out to eat or to a movie. Our friends sent flowers and a snack basket while I was in the hospital, brought over Halloween treats and then Christmas presents to our home.
  • Maintain family time. Since our two daughters were young, my husband and I watched many shows on the Disney Channel, played board games and read a lot of books with the girls while I was going through cancer treatment.

By Christmas, I was told that the tumor had shrunk in response to the chemotherapy! In the spring of 2001, I completed radiation and was declared in remission on May 17, 2001!

In Part II, Leslie discusses life after lymphoma.

More Articles

More Articles

Lymphoma patients may have the option to participate in clinical trials, gaining access to an experimental treatment before it is widely available...

Since there are several subtypes of T cell lymphoma, there will necessarily be several non-specific T cell lymphoma...

In order to prevent developing any subtype of lymphoma, it would be helpful to know the causes of lymphoma. Unfortunately, in virtually every case...

After surviving lymphoma treatments, patients should be on the lookout for late effects. These are symptoms that arise well after treatment has...

Canine lymphoma is a fairly common cancer in American dogs. The most commonly seen lymphoma in America is a type called Lymphosarcoma, although...

Advances in the treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma have resulted in remarkable survival rates, even for...

Since so many chemotherapy agents can affect a patient’s sex drive and fertility, thinking about these issues prior...

The short answer: both. Let's begin with a simple definition of radiation: Radiation is the energy emitted from an energy source. That energy...

According to a study by Japanese researchers, the SMILE combination chemotherapy protocol is effective against extranodal natural killer/T-cell...

Patients treated with maintenance rituximab had three times longer progression-free survival. This is a summary of an article published in the...

When you consider that the adult human body has anywhere from 300 to 700 lymph nodes, the better question might not be where ARE they located, but...

This entry looks at a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called true histiocytic lymphoma (THL), also referred to as diffuse histiocytic lymphoma, and...

Lymphomatous meningitis [LM], also known as leukemic meningitis, is an extremely serious peripheral cancer that attacks the tissue that covers the...

Hodgkin's Disease—also referred to as Hodgkin's Lymphoma, these are the exact same diseases, just...

Intravascular lymphoma is a subtype of 'Lymphoma', an umbrella term that loosely refers to several dozen...